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Period tracker apps: Maya and MIA Fem are sharing deeply personal data with Facebook • Buzzfeed News
Megha Rajagopalan:
<p>UK-based advocacy group Privacy International, sharing its <a href="">findings</a> exclusively with BuzzFeed News, discovered period-tracking apps including MIA Fem and Maya sent women’s use of contraception, the timings of their monthly periods, symptoms like swelling and cramps, and more, directly to Facebook.

Women use such apps for a range of purposes, from tracking their period cycles to maximizing their chances of conceiving a child. On the Google Play store, Maya, owned by India-based Plackal Tech, has more than 5 million downloads. Period Tracker MIA Fem: Ovulation Calculator, owned by Cyprus-based Mobapp Development Limited, says it has more than 2 million users around the world. They are also available on the App Store.

The data sharing with Facebook happens via Facebook’s Software Development Kit (SDK), which helps app developers incorporate particular features and collect user data so Facebook can show them targeted ads, among other functions. When a user puts personal information into an app, that information may also be sent by the SDK to Facebook.

Asked about the report, Facebook told BuzzFeed News it had gotten in touch with the apps Privacy International identified to discuss possible violations of its terms of service, including sending prohibited types of sensitive information.

Maya informs Facebook whenever you open the app and starts sharing some data with Facebook even before the user agrees to the app’s privacy policy, Privacy International found.</p>
app  privacy  menstruation  facebook 
4 days ago by charlesarthur
Chinese deepfake app Zao sparks privacy row after going viral • The Guardian
<p>A Chinese app that lets users convincingly swap their faces with film or TV characters has rapidly become one of the country’s most downloaded apps, triggering a privacy row.

Released on Friday, the Zao app went viral as Chinese users seized on the chance to see themselves act out scenes from well-known movies using deepfake technology, which has already prompted concerns elsewhere over potential misuse.

Users provide a series of selfies in which they blink, move their mouths and make facial expressions, which the app uses to realistically morph the person’s animated likeness on to movies, TV shows or other content.

The company was forced to issue a statement on Sunday pledging changes after critics attacked the app’s privacy policy, which it had “free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicenseable” rights to all user-generated content.

There has been growing concern over deepfakes, which use artificial intelligence to appear genuine. Critics say the technology can be used to create bogus videos to manipulate elections, defame someone, or potentially cause unrest by spreading misinformation on a massive scale.</p>

It's remarkable stuff: <a href="">this tweet</a> has an example of a Chinese user's face overlaid on Leonardo Di Caprio's.

My <a href="">first link to a "deep fake" was in December 2017</a>, though it wasn't called that; it involved the face of Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) being put onto someone else's body for a porn video. 19 months later, it's an app.
deepfake  app  video  china 
17 days ago by charlesarthur
The sad truth about sleep-tracking devices and apps • The New York Times
Brian Chen:
<p>I wore an Apple Watch, since it is one of the most popular health-tracking devices. I also downloaded a top-rated app called AutoSleep, which uses the Apple Watch’s sensors to follow my movements and determine when I fell asleep and woke up. (The Apple Watch lacks a built-in sleep tracker.) Here’s what AutoSleep gathered on my sleep habits.

But the excitement ended there. Ultimately, the technology did not help me sleep more. It didn’t reveal anything that I didn’t already know, which is that I average about five and a half hours of slumber a night. And the data did not help me answer what I should do about my particular sleep problems. In fact, I’ve felt grumpier since I started these tests.

That mirrored the conclusions of a recent study from Rush University Medical College and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Researchers there noticed patients complaining about sleep data collected by apps and devices from Nike, Apple, Fitbit and others.

In their study, the researchers warned that sleep-tracking tech could provide inaccurate data and worsen insomnia by making people obsessed with achieving perfect slumber, a condition they called orthosomnia. It was one of the latest pieces of research supporting the idea that <a href="">health apps don’t necessarily make people healthier</a>.</p>

I've never quite understood what the sleep apps are meant to be tracking, because as he says, what can you do about it? Nobody really knows.
sleep  app  health 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google shuts down Nest app for Apple Watch and Wear OS • The Verge
Chris Welch:
<p>People take control of their smart thermostat from their wrist so infrequently that Google has decided to completely scrap its Nest app for both Apple Watch and the company’s own Wear OS platform. The smartwatch Nest app offered a quick way to adjust the thermostat’s target temperature or operating mode. But now it simply displays a “Nest is no longer supported on Wear OS” message when opened and instructs customers to uninstall it.

“We took a look at Nest app users on smartwatches and found that only a small number of people were using it,” a Google spokesperson told 9to5Google. “Moving forward our team will spend more time focusing on delivering high quality experiences through mobile apps and voice interactions.”

Is this some monumental loss? No, not really. You can still just pull out your phone and do those same things (and more) with the Nest mobile app on Android and iOS. Notifications from the Nest smartphone app will continue to show up on your watch.</p>

No surprise. There are very few things you can usefully control from your wrist. It's fine for receiving notifications, dictating short notes, starting exercise apps. But really, isn't the idea of the Nest that you don't need to control it?
nest  wearable  app 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Fake Samsung firmware update app tricks more than 10 million Android users • ZDNet
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p>Over ten million users have been duped in installing a <a href="">fake Samsung app</a> named "Updates for Samsung" that promises firmware updates, but, in reality, redirects users to an ad-filled website and charges for firmware downloads.

"I have contacted the Google Play Store and asked them to consider removing this app," Aleksejs Kuprins, malware analyst at the CSIS Security Group, told ZDNet today in an interview, after <a href="">publishing a report on the app's shady behaviour</a> earlier [on July 4].

The app takes advantage of the difficulty in getting firmware and operating system updates for Samsung phones, hence the high number of users who have installed it.

"It would be wrong to judge people for mistakenly going to the official application store for the firmware updates after buying a new Android device," the security researcher said. "Vendors frequently bundle their Android OS builds with an intimidating number of software, and it can easily get confusing."</p>

Was still there on Friday evening. I think it might have been a mistake to publish his report on a huge public holiday in the US.
samsung  fake  firmware  app  google 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Would you pay $30 a month to check your email? • The New York Times
Kevin Roose:
<p>if you’re approved for access, there’s a mandatory session in which a representative gives you a videoconference tutorial. In my case, Mr. Vohra spent a full hour teaching me how to use the app’s features. Superhuman, which plugs into your existing email account, works with only Gmail and Google G Suite addresses for now, but the company plans to expand to other providers soon.

Some of the app’s features — such as ones that let users undo sending, track when their emails are opened and automatically pull up a contact’s LinkedIn profile — are available in other third-party email plug-ins. But there are bells and whistles that I hadn’t seen before. Like “instant intro,” which moves the sender of an introductory email to bcc, saving you from having to manually re-enter that person’s address. Or the scheduling feature, which sees that you’re typing “next Tuesday” and automatically pulls up your calendar for that day.

These features will appeal most to power users who spend most of their day typing on a laptop or desktop. (Superhuman has a mobile app, but much of the heavy-duty functionality requires a keyboard.) Mr. Vohra said the app was targeted at people who spend three or more hours a day checking their email.

“When you’re doing three-plus hours of email every day, it’s your job,” Mr. Vohra said. “And every single other job has a tool that makes you do it faster.”

…with Superhuman, I bushwhacked through my unread emails in less than an hour, eventually reaching a kind of dissociative flow state. Invitation to a blockchain-themed happy hour? Hit ⌘-; to insert a “snippet,” a canned reply politely declining. Newsletter from a hotel I stayed at once in 2014? Hit ⌘-U to unsubscribe. It made checking my email feel less like doing work and more like speed-running a video game in which the object is to annoy as few people as possible.</p>

OK, those sound useful - especially the Unsubscribe. I can imagine every email company (all three of them) stealing those features and making them universal in a couple of years.
email  superhuman  app 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Millions of people uploaded photos to the Ever app. Then the company used them to develop facial recognition tools • NBC News
Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar:
<p>“Make memories”: That’s the slogan on the website for the photo storage app Ever, accompanied by a cursive logo and an example album titled “Weekend with Grandpa.”

Everything about Ever’s branding is warm and fuzzy, about sharing your “best moments” while freeing up space on your phone.

What isn’t obvious on Ever’s website or app — except for a brief reference that was added to the privacy policy after NBC News reached out to the company in April — is that the photos people share are used to train the company’s facial recognition system, and that Ever then offers to sell that technology to private companies, law enforcement and the military.

In other words, what began in 2013 as another cloud storage app has pivoted toward a far more lucrative business known as Ever AI — without telling the app’s millions of users.

“This looks like an egregious violation of people’s privacy,” said Jacob Snow, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “They are taking images of people’s families, photos from a private photo app, and using it to build surveillance technology. That’s hugely concerning.”</p>

Wonder if this is legal in Illinois?
ever  app  photos  surveillance 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
API updates and important changes • Facebook Developer News blog
Eddie O'Neil:
<p>as of today, previously approved user permissions that your app has not used or accessed in the past 90 days may be considered expired. Access to expired permissions will be revoked. Going forward, we will periodically review, audit, and remove permissions that your app has not used. Developers can submit for App Review to re-gain access to expired permissions.</p>

Good idea - and it would be great if other platforms did this too. Why not make it the default on Twitter, iOS, Android? 90 days is a long time not to use an app or its permissions.
facebook  app  permissions 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
A hotspot finder app exposed two million Wi-Fi network passwords • TechCrunch
<p>A popular hotspot finder app for Android exposed the Wi-Fi network passwords for more than two million networks.

The app, downloaded by thousands of users, allowed anyone to search for Wi-Fi networks in their nearby area. The app allows the user to upload Wi-Fi network passwords from their devices to its database for others to use.

That database of more than two million network passwords, however, was left exposed and unprotected, allowing anyone to access and download the contents in bulk.

Sanyam Jain, a security researcher and a member of the GDI Foundation, found the database and reported the findings to TechCrunch.

We spent more than two weeks trying to contact the developer, believed to be based in China, to no avail. Eventually we contacted the host, DigitalOcean, which took down the database within a day of reaching out.</p>

Crazy app: you can upload the SSID and password for any Wi-Fi network. And then it's sitting there on its database, which turns out to be not that secure (predictably enough). Why would you trust some random app from the Play Store, except that it says "free Wi-Fi!!!!" It's greed blinding people to security.
wifi  security  app 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
To stop copycats, Snapchat shares itself • TechCrunch
Josh Constine:
<p>Snapchat’s plan is to let other apps embed the best parts of it rather than building their own half-rate copies.

Why reinvent the wheel of Stories, Bitmoji, and ads when you can reuse the original? A high-ranking Snap executive told me on background that this is indeed the strategy. If it’s going to invent these products, and others want something similar, it’s smarter to enable and partly control the Snapchatification than to try to ignore it. Otherwise, Facebook might be the one to platform-tize what Snap inspired everyone to want.

The “Camera company” corrected course and took back control of its destiny this week at its first ever Snap Partner Summit in its hometown of Los Angeles. Now it’s a camera platform thanks to Snap Kit. Its new Story Kit will implant Snapchat Stories into other apps later this year. They can display a more traditional carousel of your friends’ Stories, or lace them into their app in a custom format. Houseparty’s Stories carousel shares what your buddies are up to outside of the group video chat app. Tinder will let you show off your Snapchat Story alongside your photos to seduce potential matches. But the camera stays inside Snapchat, with new options to share out to these App Stories.

This is how Snapchat colonizes the native app ecosystem similarly to how Facebook invaded the web with the Like button. </p>

I'll admit, I don't really get this. So we're going to get the confusing Snapchat interface all over the place? Or Snapchat is going to learn what its interface ought to be?
snapchat  app 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
It’s tough being the first birth control app • Bloomberg
Esmé Deprez:
<p>[Elina] Berglund won’t divulge many details about [period-tracking/pregnancy likelihood predictor] Natural Cycles’ technology, lest competitors seek to copy it. But she does say it reliably predicts ovulation by taking into account a user’s menstruation dates, fluctuations in her body temperature, and data on the cycles of hundreds of thousands of women. It also adapts to each user: The app will err on the side of caution by showing additional red days when it doesn’t have enough information. The more data a user inputs, the more precise its red day-green day predictions become.

Clinical studies show Natural Cycles is 93 percent effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use, meaning that after a year, seven women out of 100 users will become pregnant. (With perfect use, Natural Cycles is 99% effective, according to its research.) That puts it about on par with hormonal birth control pills (91%) and beats condoms (82%) and the rhythm method (76%). But it’s less effective than long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (almost 100%). Even though Natural Cycles wasn’t developed with proponents of so-called natural family planning methods such as the Catholic Church in mind, it’s won praise from those quarters because it isn’t “artificial” birth control that divorces sex from procreation.</p>

However, it then ran slap bang into a PR crisis. Side note: Berglund was on the team at CERN which discovered the Higgs Boson. Now she's cofounded an app which has several hundred thousand users paying $99 per year. That's serious money.
period  app  women 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Restaurant Megatrends 2019: Google's domination of local discovery is almost complete • Skift
Jason Clampet:
<p>In the late 1990s companies including Microsoft Sidewalk, AOL Digital Cities, and CitySearch duked it out digitally to be the place people discovered a new restaurant or bar online, while print outfits like Zagat, Time Out, and local newspapers did the same in print. There were multiple ways to find a place to go in print and online.

This isn’t really true anymore. Google, with its trifecta of Google Maps, Mobile search, and Desktop search fuels local discovery with a dominance that is daunting.

Sure, there are other ways to find a great taco: Apple Maps exists; Yelp is still important enough to worry restaurants; Foursquare hums along quietly; and reservation apps can point the way. Instagram has the power to inspire, but you can’t ask it where to get a burger near you.

Thanks to our reliance on smartphones and GPS, it’s become an indispensable tool for restaurants. At the same time, Google’s ad search business, allowing keywords to go to the highest bidder, change the way restaurants must market themselves.

The stats are daunting, whether they’re coming for Google itself or third parties. According to Think by Google, “people are at least twice as likely to use search than other online or offline sources … Not only is search the most used resource, it’s the resource 87% of people turn to first.”

Over the last year the frequency of the search term “restaurant near me” has grown by two to three times in markets around the world. In no place has this search grown less than 50%. Indeed, the growing popularity of “… near me” searches clearly illustrates the consumer shift to a reliance on digital for the most basic local discovery actions at an incredibly high frequency that will only continue to increase as long as search results satisfy.</p>

Clampet argues that Google Maps is now a "mega app", like Line in Japan or WeChat in China - absorbing other apps under its umbrella.
google  maps  app 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Addressing Spotify’s claims • Apple
<p>The only contribution that Apple requires is for digital goods and services that are purchased inside the app using our secure in-app purchase system. As Spotify points out, that revenue share is 30% for the first year of an annual subscription — but they left out that it drops to 15% in the years after.

That’s not the only information Spotify left out about how their business works:

• The majority of customers use their free, ad-supported product, which makes no contribution to the App Store.<br />• A significant portion of Spotify’s customers come through partnerships with mobile carriers. This generates no App Store contribution, but requires Spotify to pay a similar distribution fee to retailers and carriers.<br />• Even now, only a tiny fraction of their subscriptions fall under Apple’s revenue-sharing model. Spotify is asking for that number to be zero.

Let’s be clear about what that means. Apple connects Spotify to our users. We provide the platform by which users download and update their app. We share critical software development tools to support Spotify’s app building. And we built a secure payment system — no small undertaking — which allows users to have faith in in-app transactions. Spotify is asking to keep all those benefits while also retaining 100% of the revenue.</p>

It would be quite a data point if we found out how many people signed up for Spotify through the iOS app. Especially given how much bigger Google Play is in user numbers.
apple  spotify  app  antitrust 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Apple, Google in crosshairs for carrying app that lets Saudi men track wives • NPR
Laura Sydell:
<p>In Saudi Arabia, women's lives are highly restricted. For example, according to Human Rights Watch, women have always needed permission from a male guardian, usually a father or husband, to leave the country. In the past, paper forms were required prior to travel.

The Absher app makes the process a lot more convenient for Saudi men. And it's drawing criticism, especially from human rights advocacy groups…

…This week, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter to both companies asking them to remove the app. "Saudi men can also reportedly use Absher to receive real-time text message alerts every time these women enter or leave the country or to prevent these women from leaving the country," he wrote.

In an interview with NPR on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about Absher. "I haven't heard about it," he said. "But obviously we'll take a look at it if that's the case."

NPR also reached out to Google, but the company has not responded…

Ironically, Absher has also been helpful to a few women trying to escape the repressive Saudi regime. [HRW senior researcher Rothna] Begum says some women have managed to secretly change the settings in the app on their male guardian's phone so that it allows them to travel.

However, she says, Google and Apple need to push back against the Saudi government and either disable the app entirely or disable the features that enable men to track women in their families. "By not saying anything," she says, "they've allowed the government to facilitate the abuse."</p>
apple  google  app  absher 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Apple tells app developers to disclose or remove screen recording code • TechCrunch
Zack Whittaker:
<p>In an email, an Apple spokesperson said: “Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem. Our App Store Review Guidelines require that apps request explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging, or otherwise making a record of user activity.”

“We have notified the developers that are in violation of these strict privacy terms and guidelines, and will take immediate action if necessary,” the spokesperson added.

It follows an investigation by TechCrunch that revealed major companies, like Expedia, Hollister and, were using a third-party analytics tool to record every tap and swipe inside the app. We found that none of the apps we tested asked the user for permission, and none of the companies said in their privacy policies that they were recording a user’s app activity.

Even though sensitive data is supposed to be masked, some data — like passport numbers and credit card numbers — was leaking.

Glassbox is a cross-platform analytics tool that specializes in session replay technology. It allows companies to integrate its screen recording technology into their apps to replay how a user interacts with the apps. Glassbox says it provides the technology, among many reasons, to help reduce app error rates. But the company “doesn’t enforce its customers” to mention that they use Glassbox’s screen recording tools in their privacy policies.</p>

Whittaker has been on a tear with these stories.
apple  app  permissions 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Los Angeles accuses Weather Channel app of covertly mining user data • The New York Times
Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Natasha Singer:
<p>One of the most popular online weather services in the United States, the Weather Channel app has been downloaded more than 100 million times and has 45 million active users monthly.

The government said the Weather Company, the business behind the app, unfairly manipulated users into turning on location tracking by implying that the information would be used only to localize weather reports. Yet the company, which is owned by IBM, also used the data for unrelated commercial purposes, like targeted marketing and <a href="">analysis for hedge funds</a>, according to <a href="">the lawsuit</a>.

The lawsuit accuses the Weather Channel of manipulating users by implying that tracking data would be used only to localize weather reports.

The city’s lawsuit cited an article last month in The New York Times that detailed a sprawling industry of companies that profit from continuously snooping on users’ precise whereabouts. The companies collect location data from smartphone apps to cater to advertisers, stores and investors seeking insights into consumer behavior.</p>

Covertly mining user data. Is this better or worse that using your computer to covertly mine cryptocurrency? Discuss.
weatherchannel  app  data 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
Supreme Court could allow suit over Apple iPhone apps' sales • The New York Times
<p>The issue before the high court at this early stage of the suit is whether the case can proceed at all. Justice Stephen Breyer, who used to teach antitrust law at Harvard Law School, said the consumers' case seemed straightforward and in line with a century of antitrust law.

Apple argues it's merely a pipeline between app developers and consumers, and that iPhone users have no claims against Apple under federal laws that prohibit unfair control of a market.

Tens of thousands of software developers set the prices and agree to pay Apple a 30 percent commission on whatever they sell, the lawyer representing Apple said in the courtroom. If anyone should be able to sue Apple, it's a developer, Daniel Wall said. "There have been plenty of disputes, but none has ever gone to litigation," he said.

Chief Justice John Roberts was alone among the nine justices who seemed prepared to agree with Apple.

Among the justices who appeared to be on the other side, Justice Elena Kagan said consumers appear to have a direct relationship with Apple. "I pick up my iPhone. I go to Apple's App Store. I pay Apple directly with credit card information that I've supplied to Apple. From my perspective, I've just engaged in a one-step transaction with Apple," Kagan said.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said if consumers are paying more than they should, then perhaps they should be able to sue. The relevant federal antitrust law says "any person injured" can sue, Kavanaugh said.

His comments could align him with justices who would allow the suit to proceed. In other cases, the court has ruled there must be a direct relationship between the seller and a party complaining about unfair, anti-competitive pricing.</p>

Decision expected by late spring. In general, how difficult the judges' questions are has an inverse or zero relationship to how the decision falls. But journalists love to think they've glimpsed a tell.
apple  app  antitrust 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Period-tracking apps are not for women • Vox
Kaitlyn Tiffany:
<p>There have been free period-tracking apps ever since there have been apps, but they didn’t really boom until the rise of Glow — founded by PayPal’s Max Levchin and four other men — in 2013, which raised $23m in venture funding in its first year, and made it clear that the menstrual cycle was a big business opportunity.

By 2016, there were so many choices, surrounded by so little coherent information and virtually zero regulation, that researchers at Columbia University Medical Center <a href="">buckled down to investigate the entire field</a>. Looking at 108 free apps, they concluded, “Most free smartphone menstrual cycle tracking apps for patient use are inaccurate. Few cite medical literature or health professional involvement.” They also clarified that “most” meant 95 percent.

The Berlin-based, anti-fluff app Clue, founded by Ida Tin, would seem like an answer to this concern. It’s science-backed and science-obsessed, and offers a robust, doctor-sourced blog on women’s health topics. It arrived the same year as Glow but took several more to raise serious funding, provided mostly by Nokia in 2016. Today, Glow has around 15 million users and Clue has 10 million. There are still dozens of other options, but they’re undeniably the big two.

Still, they are not built for women.

“The design of these tools often doesn’t acknowledge the full range of women’s needs. There are strong assumptions built into their design that can marginalize a lot of women’s sexual health experiences,” Karen Levy, an assistant professor of information science at Cornell University, tells me in an email, after explaining that her period tracker couldn’t understand her pregnancy, “a several-hundred-day menstrual cycle.”

Levy coined the term “intimate surveillance” in <a href="">an expansive paper on the topic</a> in the Iowa Law Review in 2015. At the time, when she described intimate data collection as having passed from the state’s public health authorities to every citizen with a smartphone, she was mostly alone in her level of alarm.</p>
app  privacy  periods  ads 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Be My Eyes: how can I help a blind person to see? • The Big Tech Question
Barry Collins:
<p>The headline on this story sounds like hyperbole or an advertising slogan. Trust me, it’s not. The simply brilliant <a href="">Be My Eyes</a> app genuinely lets you see on behalf of someone who is blind or visually impaired.

The app works by turning the visually impaired person’s smartphone into a live video camera. When they need help identifying something – whether it’s a caller at their door, a tin of food in their cupboard or a packet of painkillers – they put out a request for help. Within seconds, one of the app’s 1.5 million volunteers will answer the call and be their eyes, using live video to see what’s in front of the visually impaired person and tell them what it is.

It’s hard to think of a more ingenious use of a smartphone – which is one of the reasons why it picked up a BT Tech4Good Award at the ceremony at BT HQ in London yesterday.</p>

This is amazing, and as Barry says, such a good and somehow obvious - in retrospect - idea.
smartphone  app  disability  vision  blind 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Apple's Phil Schiller explains why Valve's Steam Link app was rejected • Mac Rumors
Juli Clover:
<p>Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller explained the reason behind the rejection to a MacStories reader and other Apple customers on Reddit who emailed to ask Apple to reconsider. In the email, Schiller says the Valve app violates a number of guidelines and that Apple is working with the Valve team to rectify the issue.
<p>We care deeply about bringing great games to all of our users on the App Store. We would love for Valve's games and services to be on iOS and AppleTV. Unfortunately, the review team found that Valve's Steam iOS app, as currently submitted, violates a number of guidelines around user generated content, in-app purchases, content codes, etc.

We've discussed these issues with Valve and will continue to work with them to help bring the Steam experience to iOS and AppleTV in a way that complies with the store's guidelines. We put great effort into creating an App Store that provides the very best experience for everyone.

We have clear guidelines that all developers must follow in order to ensure the App Store is a safe place for all users and a fair opportunity for all developers.</p>

The Steam Link app is designed to allow Steam users to play their Steam games on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV using either a 5GHz WiFi network or a wired Ethernet connection to a host PC or Mac. As our sister site TouchArcade said in a review of the app, it allows for "real" PC-like game experiences on Apple devices.

"I could see a very real situation where many people just straight up stop buying things from the App Store and exclusively purchase Steam games through Valve instead," wrote TouchArcade editor-in-chief Eli Hodapp. </p>

That's not an explanation. It's a reiteration of what we knew must be the case - that it violated some guidelines. But which ones, how? Especially since Apple approved it on May 7 and then un-approved it on May 9. Big suspicion that it would allow an end-run around the purchase of Valve content via the App Store. But that already happens on MacOS.
valve  app 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Free app brings iPhone X gesture navigation to Android phones without Android P • BGR
Zach Epstein:
<p>Google announced during its Google I/O 2018 keynote presentation that gesture controls will be coming to the Android platform later this year when Android P is released. There’s already a public beta of Android P available for people with certain smartphones, but everyone else will have to wait until sometime later this year or in 2019 when Android P updates finally start rolling out to phones. Some smartphone makers don’t want to wait for Android P, so they’re adding their own take on the iPhone X’s gesture navigation. OnePlus is a good example, though gesture navigation on the OnePlus 6 is kind of terrible.

There are already a few different apps out there that let you add gesture-based navigation to an Android phone. The problem with these apps is they require you to root your Android device. Not everyone wants to bother rooting their phones, and there are also security implications that many people aren’t comfortable with. Don’t worry though, because we have some good news: There’s a new free app that brings the iPhone X’s gestures to Android without the need for root access.

The app is called <a href="">Navigation Gestures</a>, and it was <a href="">built by an admin from xda-developers</a>. It’s currently available for free in the Play store. The app can be installed on any modern Android phone, and it doesn’t require users to first root their devices. There is one small caveat though. Navigation Gestures uses an API that is only accessible by granting a special permission, and you’ll need to connect your Android device to a Windows or Mac computer in order to grant that permission. It’s quite easy, and XDA provides a video that walks you through the process.</p>

Seems fairly clear that in four years or so, the majority of phones will be working on gestures and have no bezels.
app  gestures  iphonex  android 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Google’s new Chat service shows total contempt for Android users’ privacy • Amnesty International
<p>Responding to Google’s launch of a new messaging service for Android phones, Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights researcher Joe Westby said:

“With its baffling decision to launch a messaging service without end-to-end encryption, Google has shown utter contempt for the privacy of Android users and handed a precious gift to cybercriminals and government spies alike, allowing them easy access to the content of Android users’ communications.

“Following the revelations by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, end-to-end encryption has become recognized as an essential safeguard for protecting people’s privacy when using messaging apps. With this new Chat service, Google shows a staggering failure to respect the human rights of its customers.

“Not only does this shockingly retrograde step leave Google lagging behind its closest competitors - Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp both have end-to-end encryption in place by default - it is also a step backwards from the company’s previous attempts at online messaging. Google’s own app Allo has an option for end-to-end encryption but the company says it will no longer invest in it. 

“In the wake of the recent Facebook data scandal, Google’s decision is not only dangerous but also out of step with current attitudes to data privacy…"</p>

Harsh. Google is trying to marshal carriers to use a more modern version of SMS, called RCS; it's also trying to bring text apps on Android up to date. (Weirdly, Google has never managed to produce a unified message product for Android in the way that Apple has iMessage.) As Ben Thompson puts it, Google's trying to herd cats. Now it's getting slagged off by Amnesty too.
google  chat  app  encryption 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Former operator of Android app pirate site Applanet gets three years' probation • Android Police
Jason Hahn:
<p>Aaron Buckley, who was an enterprising 15-year-old when he launched Applanet from his parents' home in Mississippi, pleaded guilty to two counts of his indictment: conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal copyright infringement. The Northern District Court of Georgia announced on April 11th that Buckley, now in his mid-20s, will be placed under three years' probation and will also be put into a home-incarceration program for 365 days. He will also have to complete 20 hours of community service, work toward his GED, pay a $200 "special assessment" fee, and refrain from owning a firearm or possessing a controlled substance.

Buckley's attorney pushed for a lenient sentence from US District Judge Timothy Batten, framing Buckley's life since launching the site for pirated Android apps as one of community work and taking a leadership role in a support community for LGBT teenagers. He also spoke of unspecified difficulties in Buckley's personal life.

"I really respect the government and the judge in their sentencing and am extremely grateful that they took into account all concerns of my health and life situation in regards to possible sentences," Buckley told TorrentFreak.</p>

The tiny bit that struck my eye was the "refrain from owning a firearm". I don't see why operating an app pirating site would make you unsafe to own a gun. Would it?
android  app  piracy 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Why iOS in-app browsers that don't use Safari's WebKitView are dangerous • Krausefx
Felix Krause on the risks from custom in-app browsers:
<p>This is basically the main reason why in-app browsers are still a thing: It allows the app maintainer to inject additional analytics code, without telling the user. This way, the app’s developer can track the following:

- How long does the user visit the linked website?
- How fast does the user scroll?
- Which links does the user open, and how long do they stay on each of them?

Combined with watch.user, the app can record you while you browse third party websites, or even use the iPhone X face sensor to parse your face. Every single tap, swipe or any other gesture; device movements, GPS location (if granted) and any other granted iOS sensor, while the app is still in the foreground.

Any app with an in-app browser can [also] easily steal the user’s email address, passwords and two-factor authentication codes. They can do that by injecting JavaScript code that bridges the data over to the app, or directly to a remote host. This is simple, it’s basically code like this:

email = document.getElementById("email").value
password = document.getElementById("password").value

That’s all that’s needed: just inject the code above to every website, run it on every user’s key stroke, and you’ll get a nice list of email addresses and passwords.</p>

In short: open links in Safari if you don't trust the app; or insist it opens a Safari webview.
Ios  security  app  browser 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
The fate of the Yo app is up to you • Mashable
Kerry Flynn:
<p>I Yo'ed, for a few months [in 2014]. But the app is long gone from my phone, and soon that purple app icon may disappear from every device. This week the Yo app alerted the world to its potential future by tweeting not simply "yo" but a link to a Patreon account. A Medium post published on Tuesday reads, 
If you want to help keep Yo running, 

head over to: ªª ºº



It's true. The fate of Yo is up to the people via a crowdfunding campaign on Patreon. When I downloaded Yo four years ago, I thought it was "dumb." It's still rather dumb. But at a time when other tech giants are manipulating our elections or spying on our private data and new startups are lying and cheating their way to success, Yo's simplicity and honesty is something to appreciate, and I say should be kept alive. 

When asked why people should want to save Yo, cofounder Or Arbel told Mashable, "They shouldn't. Unless they use it and want to keep using it, then they should."

So the question is, Do people still use Yo? And, do people want to keep using Yo?</p>

No. (It got millions in VC funding. Say goodbye.)
Yo  app  death 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
Die With Me
<p>The chat app you can only use when you have less than 5% battery.

Die together in a chatroom on your way to offline peace.</p>

A clever idea: finding a niche in what seems like the utterly known territory of the smartphone. What about "The 1%" where it only works on 99%.. OK, something else? 4G connection? 3G? Edge?
app  ios  fun  smartphone 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
No, I don't want to configure your app! • Quils in Space
<p>There seems to be a very interesting trend re-emerging in software development lately, influenced by Node’s philosophy, perhaps, where to use anything at all you first need to install a dozen of “dependencies,” spend the next 10 hours configuring it, pray to whatever gods (or beings) you believe in—even if you don’t. And then, if you’re very lucky and the stars are properly aligned in the sky, you’ll be able to see “Hello, world” output on the screen.

Apparently, more configuration always means more good, as evidenced by new, popular tools such as WebPack and Babel.js’s 6th version. Perhaps this also explains why Java was such a popular platform back in the days.

HYPOTHESIS: The popularity of a tool is proportional to the amount of time it makes their users waste.</p>

Though this post is from January 2016, it's still true. I did try an app called <a href="">Focos</a>, which shows the output from the depth-mapping systems on the iPhone, and it has a different approach to making you configure the app: it doesn't even begin explaining how to use it until you press some element. (Then it shows you in detail.) Much better than forcing you to sit through an intro.
app  programming  usability 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
$99/month is a steal for CloudApp for iMobile •
Dan Byler was browsing for an iOS-native cloud service and came across a thing called "CloudApp":
<p>The Setup Instructions info link goes to Apple’s own iCloud support site. And in case it’s hard to read, the app basically lists iCloud’s services as its list of features.1

But hey, it’s cheap! Only $99/month!

I nearly fell prey to the scam myself: while screenshotting the app, I accidentally subscribed (because of the way TouchID is integrated into the home button – and the home button is part of taking screenshots):

<img src="" width="100%" />

Fortunately, I know how to cancel iTunes subscriptions, but I’m sure a lot of the app’s users don’t.
<img src="" width="100%" />

I reported the app to Apple on November 26, but as of writing this (three days later) the app is still live in the App Store. Perhaps this helpful review of the App Store Review Guidelines will help inform whether this app is legitimate, according to the current rules:

<em>1.1.6 False information and features, including inaccurate device data or trick/joke functionality, such as fake location trackers.</em></p>

Not available in the UK. Unclear whether it's still available in the US.
apple  app  scam 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
How to organize iPhone apps in iOS11 • CNBC
Todd Haselton:
<p>You can do this by holding your finger on an application icon for just a few seconds. It'll start jiggling and you'll see an X pop up when it's ready to be moved. Don't let go, this is key. We're going to group a bunch of apps together.

Now, while still holding one finger on that first app, tap all the other apps you want to group with it. They'll all start to gather under the first app you selected. Note the small number that appears which shows how many apps you've selected.

Move them where you'd like to place them.

Move the apps anywhere you like, such as into a folder. This simple grouping of applications allows you to take all of your health apps, for example, and quickly toss them into a folder. Previously, you'd need to select each app one by one.</p>

This is useful. And hidden.
iphone  app 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
How to use App Pairing on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 • AndroidAuthority
Edgar Cervantes:
<p>Split Screen View is one of the most helpful features found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, but we are not here to talk about this specific function. At least not directly. Instead we will show you a good way to take advantage of Split Screen View.

Don’t want to fumble around apps every time you need to multi-task? It can be a hassle having to manually select which applications to use… every single time. You likely have favorite app combinations anyways, so Samsung has come up with App Pairing.

<img src="" width="100%" />

What is this App Pairing we speak of? The concept is simple, but once you get used to it you wonder why it wasn’t there all along. Simply put, App Pairing makes it easy to pre-select a couple apps to quickly launch in Split Screen View. A shortcut will be created, making it a breeze to access the app duo.</p>

Neat idea; one can see how you might have various apps that you always want to use together (Twitter and a browser? WhatsApp and, um, YouTube?).
samsung  app  note8 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
How Apple can push augmented reality and Siri together with iOS 12 • Medium
Albert Choi wants it to be next September already; he's imagining a "Lens" app from Apple which would activate AR innately:
<p>Once you’re in the app, the camera will enable and a menu bar will appear. There will be three buttons: Explore, Siri, and Apps.

• Explore will show you top apps for Lens and also suggestion of preview apps. Download and quickly preview and demo an app.

• Siri works the same way as always. Use your voice to navigate and command through Lens.

•My Apps will show you all the apps that you’ve loaded onto Lens. If an app that you already have on your iPhone, it will migrate automatically to be compatible with Lens.

So when you activate Siri and ask it a question like “where is some places to eat?’’, in this case Lens will use Maps to help you look for a location. Using augmented reality, restaurant icons are shown at the location. If you prefer the Maps app, it can be accessed clicking the icon on the top right of your screen.

When clicking on any of the restaurant icons, you’ll see the information about the restaurant. With Lens, you’ll be able to receive AR based directions when driving (for passenger) or when walking. Maps will be able to provide you compatible indoor routes.</p>

The maps example isn't a huge advance on what we already have, to be honest. We're still waiting for the first proper wave of AR apps to hit. (Perhaps Apple should create a category in the app store?)
apple  app  augmentedreality 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
App that paid users to exercise owes nearly $1m for not paying users to exercise Gizmodo
Rhett Jones:
<p>In the capitalistic nightmare we live in, everything has to be a transaction. So, when Pact launched its fitness app that let you make money for working out—or else pay a fee for failing to do so—it seemed to be the perfect motivational tool. There was just one problem: The company apparently wasn’t that great at paying up, and was it too good at collecting fees.

On Thursday, the <a href="">FTC announced</a> that it has settled its complaint against the makers of Pact for failing to live up to their agreement with users. A $1.5 million judgment will be partially suspended based on Pact’s apparent lack of funds, the FTC writes, but Pact will be required to pay out $948,788 to customers who were wronged by the company.</p>
ftc  app  scam 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Craig Federighi says 3D Touch app switcher gesture will return in future update to iOS 11 • Mac Rumors
Joe Rossignol:
<p>Federighi, replying to an email from MacRumors reader Adam Zahn, said Apple had to "temporarily drop support" for the gesture due to an unidentified "technical constraint."
Question from Zahn: Could we at least make the 3D Touch app switch gesture an option in iOS 11 so that I could retain the ability to switch apps that way instead of having to double tap the home button?

Response from Federighi: Hi Adam,

We regretfully had to temporarily drop support for this gesture due to a technical constraint. We will be bringing it back in an upcoming iOS 11.x update.

Thanks (and sorry for the inconvenience)!

- craig

On devices that support 3D Touch running iOS 9 or iOS 10, users can press deeply on the left side of the screen, drag to the right, and release to quickly access the App Switcher. </p>

This is interesting; I thought that it had been removed because on an edge-to-edge screen (ie, the iPhone X) it would be too easy to trigger. Apparently not.
app  apple  iphonex  ux  ui 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
The best utility apps for iOS • Initial Charge
Michael Rockwell:
<p>On a recent episode of Mac Power Users, Katie Floyd and David Sparks discussed their favorite iOS utilities — simple little apps that do one thing really well. I thought I’d follow in their footsteps and publish a list of, what I consider to be, the best iOS utilities available.</p>

If you use iOS, you'll probably find something you like here. (Read it on your iPhone/iPad so the links work directly..) The "Unobstruct" content blocker for getting rid of floating social toolbars "and other unnecessary cruft" is probably a must-have.
app  ios  productivity 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Apple’s refusal to approve India’s anti-spam app angers regulators • Bloomberg
Saritha Rai:
<p>The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has been trying unsuccessfully to get its Do Not Disturb software included in the App Store. The program lets people share spam call and text message logs with the agency, which uses the data to alert mobile operators to block the spammers. Apple has said the app violates its privacy policy, according to the regulator.

The standoff could impact Apple’s efforts to expand in India, where half a billion smartphones will be sold by 2020. The Cupertino, California-based company has been in discussions with India’s government to open retail stores and secure permission to sell used iPhones imported into the country. Apple has put forth a long list of demands, including tax breaks and other concessions, to set up manufacturing facilities. 

“Nobody’s asking Apple to violate its privacy policy,” said Ram Sewak Sharma, chairman of the Delhi-based telecom regulator. “It is a ridiculous situation, no company can be allowed to be the guardian of a user’s data.”

The regulator is currently seeking public and stakeholder comments on a <a href="">consultative paper</a> on users’ control over their personal information and rules on the flow of data through telecommunications networks. The process, scheduled to be completed in September, could eventually lead to new rules governing user data. That could also become part of the telecom licensing process, Sharma said.

Any new measures could affect not just Apple, but Facebook, Google and other technology companies that handle large amounts of private and personal information.</p>
apple  india  app  privacy 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Financial Times returns to Apple’s App Store after six-year hiatus • WSJ
Jack Marshall:
<p>The company hopes its new app, available for iPhone and iPad, will help boost subscriber engagement with its content and in turn increase the revenue it is able to extract from its customers over the long term.

“We know that an engaged reader results in a larger lifetime value,” said Cait O’Riordan, the FT’s chief product and information officer. “We want to know if a native app can help drive that engagement number.”

Since 2011, Apple device users have only been able to access the FT’s full range of content via its mobile website. The FT decided to invest in its web offering rather than a “native” iOS app partly because of Apple’s requirement to be paid a 30% cut of any subscription revenue generated from apps in its App Store, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new iOS app will therefore only be accessible to existing FT subscribers. New readers won’t be able to purchase subscriptions from within the app itself, but must instead do so from the FT’s website before logging in.

This model means the FT can avoid giving Apple a cut of subscription revenue and will allow it to collect payment information and other valuable data directly from its subscribers. Spotify and other subscription-based services have taken a similar approach in recent years.</p>

The end-run around the subscription problem (Amazon does the same thing on Kindle books) seems like a suitable solution to the problem. One wonder why it took the FT six years to figure this out.

Also - minor point - shouldn't the final word in the headline be "absence" rather than "hiatus"? The app was <em>withdrawn</em>. It didn't pause.
ft  app  apple  appstore 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
CM2- Night Rider, our first ££ commercial bus route • Citymapper
Citymapper is starting a night bus, after analysing peoples' travel needs and where they go. It's all mod cons; looks very swish. And for the international readers:
<p>Note to Silicon Valley: it’s a social hyper-local multi-passenger pooled vehicle<br />Our geo-matching technology routes the multi-seated vehicles to specially calculated lat long locations, which optimise the boarding of multiple homosapiens with varied demographics, while minimising waiting times, leading to efficient overall ETAs.

Note to rest of the world: it’s a bus<br />A proper bus, since this is a busy route. We will use bus stops just like any other bus. We will operate hop on hop off just like any other bus. The buses will be green though of course.</p>

But all of it is worth a read. Going from a free app to a paid-for bus is a neat idea.
app  citymapper  london  transit 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Laundry Day - Care Symbol Reader on the App Store
Jan Plesek:
<p>This app will help you with your laundry. You can scan your laundry tags and app will tell you how to wash your clothes. It works like magic, but no, it is a technology!</p>

I love the idea of this app. Because some of those things really are so incomprehensible.
laundry  app 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
About • Lolatravel
<p>We’re a new kind of travel company that provides on-demand, personal travel service through a smartphone app. The Lola app instantly connects people to our team of travel agents who find and book flights, hotels, and cars for our customers. We also provide support while they’re on their trips.

The name Lola is shorthand for longitude and latitude, a system created to make seaborne navigation easier, and in that same spirit, we started Lola to give more people access to a premium level of travel care.</p>

Human travel agents? Weren't they supposed to be out of work now? Turns out: no. My daughter has been trying to book travel abroad, and our local travel agent has done far better at finding affordable travel and accommodation. Neat idea; an app for iOS only, for now. (Via Tim O'Reilly's talk in Cambridge on Tuesday.)
Travel  app  bot  ai 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Bose headphones spy on listeners: lawsuit • Reuters
Jonathan Stempel:
<p>The <a href="">complaint</a> filed on Tuesday by Kyle Zak in federal court in Chicago seeks an injunction to stop Bose's "wholesale disregard" for the privacy of customers who download its free Bose Connect app from Apple Inc or Google Play stores to their smartphones.

"People should be uncomfortable with it," Christopher Dore, a lawyer representing Zak, said in an interview. "People put headphones on their head because they think it's private, but they can be giving out information they don't want to share."

Bose did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment on the proposed class action case. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company has said annual sales top $3.5 billion.

Zak's lawsuit was the latest to accuse companies of trying to boost profit by quietly amassing customer information, and then selling it or using it to solicit more business.

After paying $350 for his QuietComfort 35 headphones, Zak said he took Bose's suggestion to "get the most out of your headphones" by downloading its app, and providing his name, email address and headphone serial number in the process.

But the Illinois resident said he was surprised to learn that Bose sent "all available media information" from his smartphone to third parties such as, whose website promises to collect customer data and "send it anywhere."

Audio choices offer "an incredible amount of insight" into customers' personalities, behavior, politics and religious views, citing as an example that a person who listens to Muslim prayers might "very likely" be a Muslim, the complaint said.</p>

An app with such terrible privacy? The EULA doesn't seem to include such a warning (by my reading). The complaint itself doesn't provide evidence of it happening. Bose hadn't commented in any story through the day. One images lots of "but DO we??" conversations at its offices.
bose  app  privacy 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Mobile app helps China recover hundreds of missing children • Reuters
Ryan Woo:
<p>A mobile app helped Chinese authorities recover hundreds of missing children last year, Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday, in a country where child trafficking is rampant.

The Ministry of Public Security said 611 missing children were found last year, Xinhua said.

The "Tuanyuan", or "reunion" in Chinese, app developed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd was launched in May and has allowed police officers to share information and work together.

Users near the location where a child has disappeared receive push notifications, including photos and descriptions. Notifications are sent to users farther and farther from the location of the disappearance if the child is still not found.</p>

In case you were wondering if the internet and mobile has delivered any benefit at all lately.
mobile  app  children  missing 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
MIT built a wearable app to detect emotion in conversation • The Verge
Natt Garun:
<p>How a person tells a story could be interpreted in a multitude of ways — telling your friend about your awesome new car can come across as excitement or a brag, depending on the listener. To help detect the sentiment behind speech, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology built a wearable app that can parse conversation to identify the emotion behind each part of the story.

The app, built into a fitness tracker for this research, collects physical and speech data to analyze the overall tone of the story in real time. Using artificial intelligence, the app can also figure out which part of the conversation was happy or sad, and tracks emotional changes in five-second intervals.</p>

One gets the feeling this is meant for officials who are interviewing people about things they shouldn't have done. Such "emotion detection" systems have historically been absolutely rubbish:
<p>In the research, participants were asked to wear a Samsung Simband with the app installed and tell a story. The band also monitored the participants’ physical changes, such as increased skin temperature, heart rate, or movements such as waving their arms around or fidgeting. Overall, the neural networks were able to determine tone with 83 percent accuracy — though it is unclear whether the research has been peer-reviewed.

<img src="" width="100%" /></p>

I get the feeling this isn't that different. Humans might still be the device of choice for doing this work.
emotion  detection  app 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
US appeals court revives antitrust lawsuit against Apple • Reuters
Stephen Nellis and Dan Levine:
<p>iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling revives a long-simmering legal challenge originally filed in 2012 taking aim at Apple’s practice of only allowing iPhones to run apps purchased from its own App Store. A group of iPhone users sued saying the Cupertino, California, company's practice was anticompetitive.

Apple had argued that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.

A lower court sided with Apple, but Judge William A. Fletcher ruled that iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, which gives iPhone users the right to bring a legal challenge against Apple.</p>

That could get interesting.
apple  antitrust  app 
january 2017 by charlesarthur
Breakdown: inside the messy world of anonymous therapy app Talkspace • The Verge
Cat Ferguson:
<p>She had just begun working with a new patient when he told her a family member had been driving drunk with the patient's baby in the car. Most states in the country, including the therapist’s, legally require licensed therapists to report child abuse, neglect, or endangerment to an appropriate agency, such as law enforcement, child protective services, or a state child welfare hotline. So the therapist, who has requested anonymity due to fear of legal repercussions, told her assigned mentor at the company about the dangerous situation.

Her mentor replied that whether or not to report was up to her, but recommended she instead advise her patient that, if caught, the family could lose the child to the state. The mentor warned the therapist that she might be at risk of legal retaliation from the patient if she abided by her duty, in license and law, to report child endangerment. The warning was unfounded; her state protects against that kind of retribution.

But thanks to Talkspace’s policy of patient anonymity, the therapist didn’t have access to her patient’s contact information, or even her name — factors that impeded her ability to warn the authorities. Unless patients tell them more, Talkspace therapists know patients only by their user name.

"So now I get to live knowing a [young] baby is being driven around by a drunk woman, I have no way to file on them, and Talkspace has put me in this position," the therapist said in an interview in October, her voice breaking…

…When reached by email for comment on this story, Talkspace co-founder Oren Frank suggested (incorrectly) that The Verge was conspiring with psychologist and Forbes blogger Todd Essig, who has written blog posts critical of Talkspace. Frank declined to speak on the record.

After being sent detailed questions by The Verge. Frank sent several legally threatening emails to editorial staff at The Verge, as well as to the CEO of Vox Media, The Verge's parent company, one of which answered two of The Verge’s questions; he never answered the others.</p>

OK, The Verge is starting to annoy people it writes about. Good.
therapy  app  talkspace 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
Android's App Shortcuts are held back by Apple's influence • Computerworld
JR Raphael:
<p>If Android's new App Shortcuts seem familiar, they should: The feature, introduced on Google's Pixel phone as part of this fall's Android 7.1 Nougat release, is a pretty obvious response to the 3D Touch system ushered into Apple's iPhones over the past year.

In both instances, you press and hold an icon on your home screen to get a pop-up list of additional options - generally quick shortcuts to actions within the app, like composing a new message in Gmail or starting a search in Twitter. (And sure, the pressure-sensitivity factor in Apple's implementation makes its version a little more technologically complex, but in practical terms, we're basically talking about the same thing.)

Maybe it should come as no surprise, then, that Google's take on the concept shares the same usability flaws as Apple's -- because instead of thinking through what'd be the most sensible and user-friendly way for a feature like this to work, Google seemed to just emulate the way Apple did it.</p>

Problems he identifies: no visual clues that shortcuts exist, long press isn't great for shortcuts. Solidly argued. 3D Touch is great because it also has taptic feedback, but you have to learn which apps have it.
3dtouch  app  android 
november 2016 by charlesarthur
We bought a successful app, loaded it with extras and watched it fail • Recode
Peter Reinardt of Segment:
<p>First, we needed a test subject. We planned to buy a small app with no active marketing activities, but significant and steady download numbers. Then we’d increase the app’s size, leaving everything else constant, and observe the impact on the app’s install rate. This would simulate the impact of app bloat on downloads.

So we bought the Mortgage Calculator Free iOS app. It was a minuscule 3MB, with a steady pattern of organic installs (about 50 installs per day for several years) and no active marketing activities. It was the perfect test case.

Over the course of the experiment, we increased the app size from 3MB to 99MB, 123MB and 150MB. We kept everything else constant to observe the isolated impact on install rate with each change in app size.

App sizes can increase substantially with the addition of seemingly simple things, like an explainer video, a bunch of fonts, an SDK or a background picture for your loading screen. For the purposes of our experiment, we bloated our app with a ton of hidden Taylor Swift album art.

To measure the impact of each successive bloating, we looked at data provided directly by Apple in iTunes Analytics. We specifically tracked conversion from “Product Page Views” to “App Units,” better known as “installs” to ”install rate.”</p>

Hit 100MB and you doom your installs. (That's a limit Apple sets for Wi-Fi only downloads.) But there's more.
app  size 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
Additional security and privacy risks of light sensors • Security, Privacy and Tech Inquiries
Lukasz Olejnik on how you could capture someone's PIN in a banking app via a malicious app which captures data from the light sensor on their smartphone:
<p>Light sensor data is not unambiguously related to PIN's digits. It's not that a particular PIN's digit resembles a particular light level; the matter is more subtle. According to the report, the information leak is emanating from the user behavioral analysis. The employed threat scenario envisions users using a specialized application monitoring the typing on a touchscreen. The application is trying to trick users to reveal their use patterns (how they type) in an activity similar to PIN typing. The application tracks lighting conditions and the rate of light level change (timestamped) when the user is typing, for later analysis of the light level change rate (e.g. speed). Light level variations are typically related to subtle angle changes caused by slight differences of the way how the device is held. You know, when you type on a smartphone, it tends to move slightly.

Then, the application waits (or tricks the user to do so) for a banking application start. Lighting conditions are still monitored. But at this point, user's use patterns (which affect the rate sensor readout changes) are already known. The research studied the mechanics of PIN deducing.

The image below (from the report) shows how particular PIN digits correlated with light level changes.

<img src="" width="100%" />

It is quite clearly seen that in this particular case, the digits 0 and 9 were related with higher light level readouts; they could be clearly distinguished from others. A machine learning algorithm would have no problems in classifying these events.</p>
app  malicious  hack  pin 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
Google Trips is a killer travel app for the modern tourist • The Verge
Casey Newton:
<p>Google today announced Trips, a new app that serves as a trip planner and travel guide for anyone who is exploring a new place. The free app, which is available on Android and iOS, will organize your plane tickets and hotel reservations, offer editorial guides to more than 200 cities, and make personalized recommendations based on your Google history. Best of all, it works offline: you can download everything to your phone before you leave, including maps and walking directions — sparing you from having to use an expensive international data plan.

Trips is the culmination of more than two years of work on improving Google’s travel products, said Richard Holden, a vice president of product management at the company, in an interview. In recent months Google introduced Destinations, a travel-planning feature inside mobile search, and revamped its hotel and flight search features.

Now the company is introducing an app that it hopes will become the default way for travelers to organize trip information ahead of their travels and get around town once they have arrived. "We’re doing a great job on the planning stages, but we really need to help consumers when they’re actually at their destination," Holden said.</p>

More aggregation by Google (see <a href="">ridesharing</a> yesterday - which as <a href="">Sameer Singh pointed out</a>, labels the ridesharing services as Ads, which means it's both getting people to use its apps *and* getting paid). It is very noticeable how focussed it has become on leveraging its strengths (search, aggregation, brand) to get people using its apps on mobile in the past few months.
google  app  mobile  trips 
september 2016 by charlesarthur
ObservedEarth on the App Store
<p>Want to explore our constantly changing Earth through high resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery? ObservedEarth simplifies the process of obtaining, processing, and visualising earth observation data.</p>

Tons of Landsat imagery from a public repository. More details on <a href="">the website</a>:
<p>A range of desktop, mobile, and web applications exist that provide access to satellite imagery. ObservedEarth differs in that it makes accessible a history of observations showing how the Earth has changed over time. Watch rivers change their path, bushfire destruction, forrest regrowth, expansion of urban developments, snowfalls. Earth observation data has wide ranging applications…

…ObservedEarth downloads unprocessed satellite data which is then processed locally on the iPhone/iPad, this enables much greater flexibility in the range of visualisations that can be offered. Raw data consumed by ObservedEarth is often available within hours of the satellite passing overhead.</p>

iOS-only at present. Looks amazing. Here's a video of what you can get:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
landsat  app 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
From Chrome apps to the web • Chromium Blog
Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, VP product management:
<p>We have always believed in making the open, interoperable web as strong as possible. For a while there were certain experiences the web couldn’t provide, such as working offline, sending notifications, and connecting to hardware. We launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge this gap.

Since then, we’ve worked with the web standards community to enable an increasing number of these use cases on the web. Developers can use powerful new APIs such as service worker and web push to build robust Progressive Web Apps that work across multiple browsers. More capabilities will continue to become available on the web.

As we continue our efforts to simplify Chrome, we believe it’s time to begin the evolution away from the Chrome apps platform. There are two types of Chrome apps: packaged apps and hosted apps. Today, approximately 1% of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. We will be removing support for packaged and hosted apps from Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux over the next two years. </p>

1% is still a big number. Wonder, though, how many will notice this.
app  chrome 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
Verizon offered to install marketers' apps on phones • AdAge
Garett Sloane:
<p>The wireless carrier has offered to install big brands' apps on its subscribers' home screens, potentially delivering millions of downloads, according to agency executives who have considered making such deals for their clients. But that reach would come at a cost: Verizon was seeking between $1 and $2 for each device affected, executives said.

Verizon started courting advertisers with app installations late last year, pitching retail and finance brands among others, agency executives said.

It has only offered the installations on Android phones, because Google's software is open for carriers to customize. Apple controls its platform more tightly.

The proposed deals with brands ensure that their apps download to only new devices when consumers activate the phones and their software for the first time.

Verizon has 75 million smartphone post-paid subscribers and activates about 10 million new phones a quarter. Android phones command more than 50% of the U.S. market, according to ComScore.

It's unclear whether Verizon sold any guaranteed app installations.</p>

Cheaper, the article points out, than comparable pay-per-install campaigns on Facebook or Google, which can cost around $5. I'm not sure this is so terrible, as people can delete the app. But to judge from <a href="">some of the coverage</a>, it's AWFUL.
verizon  app  install 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
SMS authentication isn’t security. And that’s official • Consult Hyperion
Dave Birch:
<p>Earlier in the week I <a href="">blogged about mobile banking security</a>, and I said that in design terms it is best to assume that the internet is in the hands of your enemies. In case you think I was exaggerating…
<p>The thieves also provided “free” wireless connections in public places to secretly mine users’ personal information.</p>

From <a href="">Gone in minutes: Chinese cybertheft gangs mine smartphones for bank card data | South China Morning Post</a>

Personally, I always use an SSL VPN when connected by wifi (even at home!) but I doubt that most people would ever go to this trouble or take the time to configure a VPN and such like. Anyway, the point is that the internet isn’t secure. And actually SMS isn’t much better, which is why it shouldn’t really be used for securing anything as important as home banking.
<p>The report also described how gangs stole mobile security codes – which banks automatically send to card holders’ registered mobile phones to verify online transactions – by using either a Trojan virus in the smartphone or a device that intercepted mobile signals up to a kilometre away.

From <a href="">Gone in minutes: Chinese cybertheft gangs mine smartphones for bank card data | South China Morning Post</a>

Of course, no-one who takes security seriously ever wanted to do things this way in the first place (which is why, for example, we used a SIM Toolkit application for M-PESA).</p>

He has lots of suggestions for improvement..
banking  app  security 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Artificial intelligence is helping the blind to recognize objects • Co.Exist
Ben Schiller:
<p>To train <a href="">the iPad app</a>, you place things in front of the device's camera at several angles, telling it about the items. Then you repeat the process, taking the objects away, so the app recognizes the difference. On subsequent occasions, it will be able to distinguish, say, your set of keys from another set of keys. "It's like a new born baby—it's learning all the time as you show it objects," Marczak says. Probably the training would be done by a family member or friend.

The second app, called <a href="">Aipoly</a>, does something similar. It's sophisticated enough to recognize clothing and colors, even in <a href="">abstract works of art</a>.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src=";controls=0&amp;showinfo=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Marczak says ID Labs is working with visually impaired support groups to improve the EyeSense app, which is free to download (versions for Android and other phones are due soon). It also works offline if necessary.</p>
ai  machinelearning  ipad  app 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Refugee rescue app pulled from App Store after it is outed as fake • The Guardian
Alex Hern:
<p>An app which purported to offer aid to refugees lost in the Mediterranean has been pulled from Apple’s App Store after it was revealed as a fake.

The I Sea app, which also won a Bronze medal at the Cannes Lions conference on Monday night, presented itself as a tool to help report refugees lost at sea, using real-time satellite footage to identify boats in trouble and highlighting their location to the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas), which would provide help.

In fact, the app did nothing of the sort. Rather than presenting real-time satellite footage – a difficult and expensive task – it instead simply shows a portion of a static, unchanging image. And while it claims to show the weather in the southern Mediterranean, that too isn’t that accurate: it’s for Western Libya.

The app was developed by Grey Group, an ad agency in Singapore that’s part of global advertising giant WPP.</p>

Read on for complete and absolute bull spouted by Grey's executive creative director about "algorithms". Shameful, and shameless.
app  fake  refugee 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Are you bored with apps? Some of the biggest apps around are seeing downloads plummet • PhoneArena
Stephen S:
<p>for some reason, there seems to be a widespread trend where growth is seriously slowing down – and in many cases, declining – for all but the very most popular apps.

For big players like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Spotify, and Twitter, app downloads are way down from last year's figures. Some of those dips are are pushing upwards of 20 percent declines, representing millions of fewer downloads downloads each month.

Internationally the situation's not particularly dire, and a good number of these apps are close to holding level, or even showing small growth. But there are definitely signs of a slowdown, especially among the big three of Facebook, Whatsapp, and Messenger – all three are seeing download figures tank.

In the US, however, things are quickly going from bad to worse, with nearly all the biggest apps seeing major growth fallout.

“Nearly,” we say, because there are two big exceptions to this trend: Snapchat and Uber.

Both relatively new and with their stars still on the rise, they're the only two big apps capturing major growth, both in the US and aboard.</p>

There's a slideshow too, which shows big slowdowns in many apps. But there's a simple explanation: the number of people new to smartphones is diminishing very rapidly, and those who are joining are the ones who aren't that interested in downloading apps. (Thanks @elvengrail for the link.)
app  downloads 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Password-stealing Instagram app 'InstaAgent' reappears in App Store under new name » Mac Rumors
Juli Clover:
<p>Last November, a malicious app called InstaAgent was caught storing the usernames and passwords of Instagram users, sending them to a suspicious remote server. After the app's activities came to light, Apple removed it from the App Store, but it now appears Turker Bayram, the developer behind the app has managed to get two new apps approved by Apple, (and Google) both of which are stealing Instagram account info.

Peppersoft developer David L-R, who discovered the insidious password-sniffing feature in the first InstaAgent app, <a href="">last week wrote a post</a> outlining new password stealing apps created by Bayram. Called "Who Cares With Me - InstaDetector" and "InstaCare - Who Cares With Me," the apps are available on Android and iOS devices.

The original InstaAgent app attracted Instagram users by promising to track the people who visited their Instagram account, and the two new apps make similar promises. Both apps say they display a list of users who interact most often with an Instagram account, asking users to log in with an Instagram username and password.

David L-R investigated Bayram's new apps and discovered a suspicious HTTPS packet, leading him to uncover a complex encryption process used to covertly send usernames and passwords to a third-party server and hide the evidence.</p>

OK, this is bad; but as a user, why would you trust a third-party app from a no-name developer with your login details? Or is that too obvious a question?
instagram  app  trojan 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Facebook's iOS bug led ComScore to overestimate time spent » AdAge
Tim Peterson:
<p>When looking at Facebook's iPhone app specifically, total time spent was 40% lower in November [after some of the bugs - but note, not all] compared to September, and the average amount of time spent per person was 41% lower. For Facebook's iPad app, total time spent was 39% lower, as was the average amount of time spent per person.

For comparison, total time spent in Facebook's Android app increased by 2% and average time spent per user was flat when comparing September and November; ComScore's Android figures are considered more reliable than its iOS figures because the firm is only able to take into account activity when the app is running in the foreground.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.</p>

Amazing - Facebook's iOS app really was the spawn of the devil through to October 2015. (Though it's hardly innocent now.) That period includes a lot of testing of new iPhones "in real-life situations" by gadget reviewers, as it happens.
iphone  facebook  app  battery 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
The joy of shortcuts » Allen Pike
<p>Next January, <a href="">Parse is shutting down</a>. The successful Parse apps will get moved to a custom backend like ours was, perhaps using Parse’s excellent open-source server and migration tool. The unsuccessful Parse apps will die. Hundreds of thousands of unsuccessful Parse apps will perish. Like links to long-dead Geocities pages, dead mobile apps that relied on Parse will linger in the App Stores for years, slowly accumulating one-star reviews.

<img src="" width="100%" />

As much as Parse will try to get the word out that they’re shutting down, many apps’ owners don’t even know that they’re reliant on Parse. Parse’s overly generous free plan made them popular with freelancers and consultants building quick app backends for their clients. Many of those clients don’t know what Parse is, let alone that the little app they commissioned a couple years ago is a ticking time bomb.</p>

How many iOS apps, how many Android apps relied on Parse? There needs to be an enumeration.
app  parse  backend 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
Uninstalling Facebook app saves up to 20% of Android battery life » The Guardian
Samuel Gibbs:
<p>Prompted by [Russell] Holly’s revelation that life on Android was better without Facebook’s app, Reddit user pbrandes_eth tested the app’s impact on the performance of an LG G4.

They found that when the Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps were uninstalled, other apps on the smartphone launched 15% faster. They tested 15 separate apps, and documented the findings, leading other reddit users to test other devices. They <a href="">found similar results when testing for app loading performance</a>.

After reading Holly’s piece, I had also decided to explore other options for accessing Facebook, to see if, rather than app loading, I could improve my smartphone’s battery life.

I left the Facebook Messenger app installed, but swapped the Facebook app for an app called Metal, which acts as a wrapper for Facebook’s mobile site. Over the course of a day my Huawei Nexus 6P had 20% more battery. This was true on average for every day for the week tried.

In Metal I was using the same notifications and accessing the same features as I had just a week earlier through the Facebook app, so why the difference?</p>

Because the Facebook app uses every trick it can to find out what you're doing, all the time. I deleted the main app ages ago (and might do the same for Messenger) and only access it through the mobile site, on a browser. This has two advantages: your battery life improves by many, many hours, and if you use an adblocker, the ads will be blocked.
facebook  app  battery 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
I found out my secret internal Tinder rating and now I wish I hadn't » Fast Company
Austin Carr:
<p>Referred to inside the company as an "Elo score," a term the chess world uses to rank player skill levels, Tinder’s rating system helps it parse its user base in order to facilitate better matches…

…Tinder CEO Sean Rad confirmed the scoring system to me while I was reporting Fast Company’s recent profile of the company. Rad, who tells me his Elo score is "above average," stresses that the rating is technically not a measure of attractiveness, but a measure of "desirability," in part because it’s not determined simply by your profile photo. "It’s not just how many people swipe right on you," Rad explains. "It’s very complicated. It took us two and a half months just to build the algorithm because a lot of factors go into it."…

…Rad teased me about it several times over dinner one evening, gauging what my score might be as he swiped through a slew of Tinder profiles on my phone. It was one thing to know my Uber rating, but did I really want to know my Elo score on Tinder? When I asked whether he could look up my rating, Rad responded, "Do you want me to do it now?" All he needed was my email address.</p>

But of <em>course</em> Sean Rad is above average. And that's not a worrying security hole. Is it?
tinder  rating  app 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
Germany launches smartphone app to help refugees integrate » The Verge
Amar Toor:
<p>The German government has launched a new smartphone app to help asylum seekers integrate in their new country. Known as Ankommen ("Arrive"), the Android app is <a href="">available for free on the Google Play Store</a>, and will launch on iOS soon, according to its <a href="">website</a>. Ankommen was jointly developed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the Federal Employment Agency, the Goethe Institute, and Bayerischer Rundfunk, a public radio and TV broadcaster.

The app is available in Arabic, English, Farsi, French, and German, and does not require an internet connection. It includes a basic German language course, as well as information on the asylum application process and how to find jobs or vocational training. The app also provides information on German values and social customs, with tips from other non-Germans who live in the country.</p>

Note the underlying assumption: refugees will have a smartphone. So far the app has fewer than 1,000 downloads.
app  refugee  smartphone 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
The worst app » Allen Pike
App maker Pike started getting angry support emails. Problem was, they weren't for his app. But the creator of a scam app had put his company's contact email in its "report a problem" link. So you contact Apple and get them to take it down, right?
<p>Now, the App Store review process is a mixed bag. While it definitely has some problems, its fickle nature has an upside. When an app is in egregious violation of common sense and decency, Apple can simply pull it from the store. All you need to do is contact Apple about the app.

Unfortunately, one does not simply contact Apple about an app. The official way to complain about an app is via the “Report a Problem” link from when you buy the app. Of course, I’m not going to buy this scam app just to complain about it, so I dug up an alternate form to report a problem. Maddeningly, one of the required fields on that form is an order number - the one you receive when you buy the app. Stalemate.</p>

It gets worse.
apple  app  review 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
Google and the shift from web to apps, indexing app-only content, streaming apps » Stratechery by Ben Thompson
From Ben Thompson's subscriber-only update, looking at <a href="">Google's streaming apps effort</a>:
<p>To be sure, streaming apps will be a worse experience than natively installed apps, at least for the foreseeable future. In fact, the effort is so nascent that Google is launching the initiative with only nine apps and only in the Google App on recent Android devices and only over Wifi. You have to start somewhere, though, and betting on the continued expansion of broadband and Moore’s Law goes hand-in-hand with Google’s brute force approach. And, as for the experience, everything is relative: a streamed app is better than having to download an app just to see a search result, and more fundamentally, a streamed app is better than not having access to the information at all.

As for iOS devices, while I’ve criticized Google in the past for its insistence on always launching Android first, I suspect there are real technical and legal challenges that come with streaming iOS apps in a similar fashion; it’s here that Google’s misguided insistence on competing with Apple head-on really hurts. I don’t see anything in this initiative that is necessarily threatening to Apple beyond the fact that app streaming helps Google. Ergo, were Google not a direct competitor (a la Microsoft today), Apple might be willing to lend a hand to ensure iOS customers had a better search experience.</p>

Danny Sullivan also has a <a href="">writeup of app streaming</a> (which is a clever implementation: apps run inside virtual machines), and points out how awful it would have been if every site was its own app.
app  streaming  google 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
YouTube Kids app faces new complaints » The New York Times
Ceclia Kang:
<p>Visit YouTube Kids and it typically does not take long before promotions for junk food appear. The advertisements regularly appear in the form of funny contests and animated stories.

In complaints filed to federal officials on Tuesday, two prominent consumer advocacy groups argued that those ads are deceptive, particularly for children. The two complaints, made to the Federal Trade Commission, expand on filings the groups made to the agency in April and could increase pressure on federal officials to intervene in the fast-growing online video market.

The groups, the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, argue in the complaints that online video aimed at children has become too commercialized and is not held to the same standards as cable and broadcast TV. The complaints call for an investigation of food marketers, video programmers and Google, which owns YouTube, as well as a broad examination of advertising of such food to children online.</p>

If YouTube by default becomes the new online TV, shouldn't it be held to the same standards as broadcast TV?
youtube  kids  app 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
Facebook app: we recently heard reports of some people... » Ari Grant on Facebook
Grant is a Facebook developer:
We recently heard reports of some people experiencing battery issues with the Facebook iOS app and have been looking into the causes of these problems. We found a few key issues and have identified additional improvements, some of which are in the version of the app that was released today.

The first issue we found was a “CPU spin” in our network code. A CPU spin is like a child in a car asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”with the question not resulting in any progress to reaching the destination. This repeated processing causes our app to use more battery than intended. The version released today has some improvements that should start making this better.

The second issue is with how we manage audio sessions. If you leave the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stays open as if the app was playing audio silently. This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep listening to the music while you do other things, except in this case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing.

Still ain't going to reinstall. Note that it's not *all* of the identified improvements in the new app.
facebook  app 
october 2015 by charlesarthur
Beautiful New Designs for Full-Screen In-App Ads » Inside Google AdWords blog
Pasha Nahass, product manager:
Nearly 60% of smartphone users expect their favorite apps to look visually appealing. We’ve always believed that in-app ads can enhance an app’s overall experience by being well designed. So today we’re announcing a completely new look for our interstitial in-app ad formats - also known as full-screen ads - that run on apps in the AdMob network and DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Ah. So let's walk through this.<br />• Full-screen interstitials for apps from mobile search results = <a href="">bad, attracting search ranking penalties</a><br />• Full-screen AdWord ads inside existing apps = good.

Especially if, as this post suggests, you use the full-screen interstitials for a mobile app install campaign.
google  interstitials  app  ads 
september 2015 by charlesarthur
CityCyclist 1.0 » scraplab
Tom Taylor:
For a few months, in slivers of spare time, I’ve been working on a little app for city bike navigation, called <a href="">CityCyclist</a>.

I’ve tried to build something clean and accessible, that gets a good bike route on the screen as quickly as possible. That’s glanceable while on a bike, and more useful when off.

Key innovations: there’s a little scrubber on the elevation profile at the bottom to fly quickly along a route without zooming and panning around. My hypothesis was that might make it easier to consign a route to memory. I suspect that’s not true, but I still like it.

The search results use a combination of Foursquare and Apple’s address geocoder, and seem fairly good.

The routing is powered by CycleStreets (backed by OpenStreetMap) with a selection of three options: fast, balanced, quiet. (UK only for now.)

The height detail is really nifty. And yes, cyclists have very different routing needs from drivers or walkers.
cyclist  app 
july 2015 by charlesarthur
Freemium is hard »
Marco Arment on how Shuveb Hussain saw app purchases plummet when he went ot freemium:
Freemium is hard. Its effectiveness depends on where you can put that purchase barrier in your app. Many app types simply don’t have a good place for it.

In this case, Shuveb faces the fatal combination of two major problems:

• His app is a lightly used utility, but he only stands to make money from heavy use. His free tier is good enough for most users.<br />• His purchase barrier — more than one article per day — discourages more frequent use, which hinders habit-building. When faced with a paywall, most people will try to avoid it unless there’s a compelling reason to pay. The few customers who hit Comfy Read’s paywall probably just think, “I guess I won’t send this article to my Kindle,” or “I guess I’ll use another app for this.” Users aren’t given the chance to let the app become a crucial part of their workflow or build any loyalty toward it, which would make them more willing to pay, before hitting a paywall.
app  freemium 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
Web vs. native: let’s concede defeat » QuirksBlog
Peter-Paul Koch:
Most business entities that require an internet presence (think small shops, plumbers, hip food carts, or the like) will not end up [as an app icon] on your homescreen. Instead, they require one just-in-time interaction — when you need their opening hours, phone number, or menu. Users will expect this information on the web because they’re not going through the hassle of installing their app.

Actually, this is very good news for the web. If the user doesn’t want your icon on his home screen, if the user wants a just-in-time interaction, it’s the web they want — not because of any inherent technological superiority, but because it’s hassle-free. Go there, read, forget. No junk left on your phone.

Most businesses don’t stand a chance of ending up on the users’ home screens. So they need the web — but not a web that emulates native to no particular purpose.

His biggest criticism of cruft-y websites is news sites - but then the counterargument comes in, as he concedes, that news sites need to have URLs so people can find the content via search. Tricky.
app  mobile  web 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
Android's permissions gap: why has it fallen so far behind Apple's iOS? » Technology | The Guardian
In December 2013 (that's 18 months ago), I asked:
why would you let an app get that sort of access to your contacts, location, or storage? If you're using Android, the answer is that you don't get much choice, unless (like those 40%+ in the <a href="">survey</a> carried out by the Information Commissioner's Office) you decide not to download the app. And the peculiar thing is that Google seems to be quite OK with that - and in fact has gone as far as to reverse an update which let users block apps from accessing data they shouldn't.

The consequences of that are already beginning to play out as people notice the difference - and complain in the only way they can, by giving apps lower ratings for what they see as excessive demands.

The problem surfaced at the end of last week, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) first <a href="">praised</a> and then <a href="">doled out brickbats</a> to Google for implementing, and then reversing, a function which allowed users to set per-app permissions to data such as their contacts, call log, location and so on. To access it you had to download a free third-party app called App Ops Launcher.

Commenters' response: "just don't install the app". Overlooking the fact that that had already been dealt with in the piece - the 40% who already don't install. Apple's iOS has had this on near-enough 100% of devices since September 2012.

Android will have it in Android M. Android Lollipop, released in autumn 2014, is presently on 9.7% of devices. I <a href="">forecast</a> it will take until June 2017 for Android M to be on 50%.
android  app  apple  permissions 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
Myntra sales dip 10% in app-only mode, rivals Amazon, Snapdeal, eBay to play safe for now » The Economic Times
Varun Jain:, India's largest online fashion retailer, has seen a 10% drop in sales since it shut its website and turned a mobile app-only etailer last week. The company, owned by Flipkart, had factored in such a decline and hoped to return to the level of sales prior to the move in the coming weeks, according to a source. Its closest rivals, Snapdeal and Amazon, however, said they had no plans to wind up their websites and focus only on mobile phone users.

"Our data shows that there are still many customers who use PCs to shop online. We do not want to force our customers to use one specific medium to shop on Snapdeal," a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

The app-only approach seems to follow this logic: if you're dependent on web visits for traffic and hence revenue, you're vulnerable to someone who has better SEO or the vicissitudes of the dominant search engine. Better therefore to build up a loyal audience on the app, and drive people there through advertising.
mobile  app  india 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
Here's the problem with using YouTube as a babysitter for your kids » Huffington Post
Alexander Howard:
Six weeks after a coalition of consumer advocates accused Google of using ‘deceptive and unfair’ ads in its YouTube Kids app, the same group is raising new concerns about access to videos that are inappropriate for children.

"Our new claims are really about deceptive practices," said Aaron Mackey, a graduate fellow at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation, citing Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The coalition, which sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday as a supplement to the previous complaint, includes the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy.

The groups allege that the app, which is marketing to children ages 5 and under, allows kids to access inappropriate videos -- including some that have nothing to do with children at all. Some of the unrelated videos are unremarkable, like videos of corporate filings. Others, though, will raise eyebrows with explicit language, jokes about drug use and pedophilia, and frank discussions of pornography, violence and suicide.

Wonder if the FTC will act on this.
google  kids  app  youtube 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
Starbucks blaming passwords, victims doesn’t fix the problem; burning questions about attack remain » Bob Sullivan
Sullivan first pointed to the hacking of Starbucks app passwords, and now has had to tear down the spin put up around it by the company:
these positions are meant to create the impression that there’s nothing wrong with the way Starbucks is processing payments, and in fact, some journalists declared that to be the case. Fortune magazine wrote “Starbucks says its popular mobile app has not been hacked, contradicting multiple media reports that intruders have hijacked the accounts of hundreds of the coffee chain’s customers…” Starbucks actually never denied that intruders had hijacked consumers accounts, and anyone can find victims complaining about just that with a few moment’s work, but some journalists seemed eager to clear Starbucks of any culpability in the issue.

That’s unfortunate, because my email this week makes it clear that plenty of Starbucks customers are pretty angry at the way this issue has been handled, and many of them don’t appreciate being blamed for having their money stolen after they placed their trust in Starbucks.
starbucks  mobile  app  hacking 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
EXCLUSIVE: Hackers target Starbucks mobile users, steal from linked credit cards without knowing account number » Bob Sullivan
Sullivan broke this story:
Because Starbucks isn’t answering specific questions about the fraud, I cannot confirm precisely how it works, but I have informed speculation, based on conversations with an anonymous source who is familiar with the crime. The source said Starbucks was known to be wrestling with the problem earlier this year. Essentially, any criminal who obtains username and password credentials to can drain a consumer’s stored value, and attack their linked credit card.

Hackers often manage to steal hordes of username and password combinations, the way they steal databases of credit card account numbers. Because consumers often re-use credentials, hackers take them and “brute force” thousands of potential logins at the website. Because Starbucks’ mobile payment app is so popular, any large set of stolen credentials is bound to have at least a few combinations that unlock Starbucks accounts.

Perhaps you're wondering: what's the use of hacking the Starbucks app? Answer, as a wilier mind than mine pointed out: you can buy Stabucks gift cards at the counter with them. Then you <a href="">sell them on eBay</a>.
starbucks  app 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
Sunset at the Secret den » Medium
David Byttow:
After a lot of thought and consultation with our board, I’ve decided to shut down Secret.

This has been the hardest decision of my life and one that saddens me deeply. Unfortunately, Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company, so I believe it’s the right decision for myself, our investors and our team.

I’m extremely proud of our team, which has built a product that was used by over 15 million people and pushed the boundaries of traditional social media. I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it. But it’s also the ultimate double-edged sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care. I look forward to seeing what others in this space do over time.

The phrase "Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company" was highlighted by Ev Williams, Medium's founder (and a Twitter co-founder). The final couple of sentences seem to be saying "Yeah, good luck with that, Whisper."
secret  app 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
The great mobile divergence: how the app universe went beyond universal apps » John Kneeland
Kneeland nails the point that I also made: that just because app developers can write once for any Windows version (phone, PC, Xbox) doesn't mean they will:
The value of a universal app is that you could write an app and have it easily working on all Windows platforms. If I had a bank app, an airline booking app, a casual game, or another app I was already planning on making for PCs, then sure, the idea of universal apps makes sense…

But what good is a Lyft app on a desktop? What good does the Luxe parking app do on my Xbox? What would Instagram even do on my ThinkPad? How could I use a barcode scanning price comparison app on a PC tethered to my desk? Is a PC going to count my steps or monitor my heart-rate in real-time? Can it help me navigate traffic with Waze? What good is a Starbucks card app (or any store app, or any mobile payments solution for that matter) going to do on a device that isn’t mobile? Heck, what would Grindr do if limited to a desktop—find romantic leads within my specified IP address blocks?

(Thanks <a href=""></a>.)
universal  app  microsoft 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
Apple’s App Store review process is hurting users, but we’re not allowed to talk about it. » Medium
Kushal Dave:
There should be outrage.

Think about how much ink has been spilled over Amazon vs. Hachette, TimeWarner vs CBS, Verizon vs. net neutrality, Google vs. Yelp. Here we have a gatekeeper, which also has lock-in, and it has found the only reasons to close the gates that could be worse than profit: paternalism and complacency.

Many of us are afraid of retribution for speaking out too loudly. Apple has, unbelievably, made a threat explicitly in writing: “If your App is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.” If Apple made good on its promise to penalize developers who complain in public, who would we appeal to?

Apple's process makes sense for Apple, but less for developers. Users do get hurt by slower updates, certainly. But Apple is <em>paranoid</em> about apps being updated to malicious or other "embarrassing" forms, and apparently doesn't have Google's virus checking-in-the-cloud capability (though it does have a kill switch). The paranoia has now become routine.

But Apple does listen to complaints that reach the press. It should probably update that part of its guidelines.
app  apple  apps  ios 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
Karen, an app that knows you all too well »
Frank Rose on London-based Blast Theory's forthcoming (April 16) app:
Unlike most real life-coaching apps, this one displays video rather than text — a tactic that makes it easy to forget the distinction between what’s digital and what’s human. When you open the app, Karen (played by Claire Cage, an actress who has appeared on the British TV series “Coronation Street” and “Being Human”) starts speaking to you directly, asking a series of questions.

She seems winsome and friendly — a little too friendly, perhaps. “She’s only recently out of a long-term relationship,” explained Matt Adams, one of the three members of Blast Theory, “and she has a hunger for a new social alternative.”

The dynamic that unfolds is somewhat reminiscent of “Her,” the 2013 Spike Jonze film in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an operating system. With Karen, however, it’s not the user but the app that starts exhibiting inappropriate behavior. “She develops a kind of friend crush,” Mr. Adams said. “And over the next 10 days or so, she feeds back to you things she’s learning about you — including some things you’re not quite sure how she knows or why.”
app  karen  smartphone 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
Creating better user experiences on Google Play » Android Developers Blog
Eunice Kim, product manager for Google Play:
Several months ago, we began reviewing apps before they are published on Google Play to better protect the community and improve the app catalog. This new process involves a team of experts who are responsible for identifying violations of our developer policies earlier in the app lifecycle. We value the rapid innovation and iteration that is unique to Google Play, and will continue to help developers get their products to market within a matter of hours after submission, rather than days or weeks. In fact, there has been no noticeable change for developers during the rollout.

To assist in this effort and provide more transparency to developers, we’ve also rolled out improvements to the way we handle publishing status. Developers now have more insight into why apps are rejected or suspended, and they can easily fix and resubmit their apps for minor policy violations.

Let's be clear: this is a good move which can only benefit users. It's only going to be uncomfortable for those who insisted that Google Play is somehow superior to Apple's App Store because it didn't have any checking.

This is largely being automated; Google <a href="">admits to TechCrunch</a> that its system may not be "as robust" as "rivals". Assume 100 new apps per day, and it probably takes, what, 20 people working flat out? You could easily triple or quadruple that without Google noticing the cost. And follow the <a href="">discussion on Android Developers on G+</a>. Plus Russell Ivanovic is <a href="">not enamoured</a>: "file under things I never thought I'd see in my lifetime".

Considering all of which, why does it take Apple so long to approve an app?
googleplay  apple  app 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
Microsoft X-box and a family problem » Medium
Jeremy Hillman's son ran up thousands of dollars on Xbox Live buying "players" for FIFA at a hundred dollars a pop:
So these are my questions to Microsoft on behalf of the thousands and thousands of parents who have fallen into this same situation (you can see online that this isn’t a rare occurrence and Microsoft employs its many escalation analysts for a reason).

With all the brilliance of your engineers and sophisticated systems to protect data how hard could it be to put a realistic ceiling on what can be spent on in-app purchases before the credit card details and security code need to be re-entered? Most Apple iTunes purchases need a password to be re-entered for each new purchase.

How many users legitimately spend thousands of dollars on in-app purchases and just how much usage would it actually take for you to flag this as unusual behaviour and require confirmation that the purchase is legitimate? Banks and credit card companies regularly do this — there can’t be many reasons you don’t.

Might just want to check your credit card statement, parents.
xbox  microsoft  app  purchase 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
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